Pine River trying to strengthen soccer program

Jenny Hoaglund
Jenny Hoaglund

LEROY — Pine River soccer will be taking the field this fall, but school officials will apparently be taking a hard look at the program to make sure it will be healthy in the long run.

The district’s Board of Education recently agreed to keep the program going.

“We were looking to make cuts anywhere,” athletic director Aaron Schab said. “When the superintendent came to me, the soccer program got recommended because it kind of kept us on pace with Title IX, and other things like participation numbers and things like that.

“Our school board decided they didn’t want to cut any programs. We’ll continue for at least another year. My major concern was participation numbers and what we have coming up in the eighth and ninth grade. It’s pretty down right now.”

Jenny Hoaglund, entering her third year as soccer coach, said last week that no formal practices are scheduled at this time. Practices officially start Aug. 13.

“As a coach, we have to have the numbers and we have to have guys wanting to play soccer,” Hoaglund said. “Without that, there is no soccer program.”

Last season, Pine River had 21 players.

“It’d be nice to have 18 or something like that,” Hoaglund said. “There are years you wish you had more and years you wish you had less. So I don’t think there’s any magic numbers. With this being a guys’ sport, it needs to be predominately guys playing. I can’t have a predominately girls team playing in a guys’ sport. It just doesn’t work.’”

Pine River doesn’t have girls soccer in the spring. Anywhere from three to six girls have been on the boys roster in past seasons.

“To have a handful of girls on the team, that’s fine,” Hoaglund said. “When you’re putting a 14-year-old girl against an 18-year-old guy, physically it doesn’t function well.”

She said there will be enough players for a 2014 team.

“We need to grow the program, plain and simple,” Hoaglund said.

The Pine River area still maintains an American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) program.

“I know it’s there and has a lot of kids in it,” Hoaglund said. “Honestly I think the problem is the kid gets to the middle school and then they get two options. They can run cross country in middle school or play football. Those kids that have played soccer since they were a little kid either decide to run cross country or play football their sixth, seventh and eighth-grade year. By the time they get to high school, they’re not coming back to soccer.”

Getting the middle school-level program going is critical, Hoaglund acknowledged.

“We’re trying to raise as much money as we possibly can to afford the program,” Hoaglund said. “The soccer teams did a couple of fund-raisers in Cadillac at the Fourth of July Festival. We’re going to try to do what we can to keep expenses to a minimum and figure out other ways to put money into the program. Funding is the issue. Dollars and cents are tight. We need to do what we can to alleviate the strain on the district.”

Hoaglund said a dollar amount hasn’t been given by the district to mandate the continuance of the program.

“We want to see what we can do to try to (finance the program),” Hoaglund said.